Key Takeaways

  • A private property owner could have your vehicle towed without your permission within certain time limits
  • Your vehicle could be towed for blatantly violating safety rules or causing traffic problems in a high traffic or emergency area
  • An abandoned vehicle can be towed - but not without written warning first
  • If your vehicle is suddenly gone, this could be the result of a misunderstanding of law, or because the vehicle was actually repossessed.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when parking to avoid having a vehicle towed for violating parking regulations.

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Trying to find your car and realizing it’s gone might lead you to question: is it legal for someone to tow my car without permission?

Yes it is. If your vehicle is violating parking rules, private property rules, or is subject to repossession, your car can be towed without asking you first. Your vehicle cannot be removed from your own private property or from private property if it is not breaking the law.

We’ll explore situations where a vehicle can be towed without your consent, and talk about what to do if that happens. We’ll also review times when you should be aware of the rules.

Table of Contents

Is it legal for someone to tow my car without permission?

When you go looking for your car and realize it is no longer there, you might suspect that someone had your car towed away without you knowing about it. There are many scenarios in which a vehicle can be towed without asking you first. Let’s talk about some of those situations:

Violating parking rules and illegal parking

People who go downtown or near urban areas will often see signs that indicate when parking is allowed in certain areas, like private parking lots or even on the sides of public streets. The punishment for parking in these areas is often posted too, ranging from a sign on a wall that says “PARKING ONLY FOR SPECIFIC RESTAURANT. ALL VIOLATORS WILL BE TOWED” - with the inclusion of the tow companies name, address and phone number.

Note that in some cases, there is a waiting period for a tow. The private business may have to wait four hours for you to move your car. The amount depends on the city and state. Some property owners with small lots will keep an eye on their parking lot and have an arranged deal with a tow company to have a vehicle towed when it clearly violates the rules set by the property owned and agreed to by the city.

Emergencies and blocking traffic

There are exceptions to the four hour rule: If a driver has rather irresponsibly blocked a lane or impeded traffic to an emergency place like a hospital, doctors office, etc, they could be towed immediately. Our suggestion to prevent this is to take a look at where you are parking and keep a good eye out for signs or emergency equipment like a fire hydrant by the side of the road. Pretty simple: if your vehicle was parked illegally, it can be towed away quickly, especially if preventing potential emergency efforts, whether or not one is happening.


If your vehicle is gone and you believe you didn’t break the law, it might be because it was repossessed. If you owe money on your vehicle and you’ve stopped paying, the lender has a legal right to take the vehicle back - and might try to do so while you are not aware, like in the middle of the night even from our own driveway.

You’ll like receive a variety of message from your lending company warning you that your car is being repossessed. A specific date is usually set for proper payment before a tow truck can come by and take your car away without further notice.

What should I do if my vehicle is towed away without my permission?

One of the first things to do is seek signs to know which towing company actually took your vehicle. Lookup or call the tow truck company to see where they are located. This is a good first step, regardless of whether or not you were towed legally. You’ll at least learn

The next step might be to call your local police department. You should verify with them your location and whether or not you can legally park there. If you were parked legally, you might have a case for being refunded for your towing fee in addition to some situations, being able to request a court and police order that allows your vehicle to be parked in a place.

When talking to your local police department, you should learn whether or not paying impound fees for your vehicle implies saying you were “guilty” of illegal parking. There is a good chance that this is not the case and that the tow truck company and whoever made the towing request may have messed up. You’ll want to talk to the tow company about getting your money back, too.

Can my vehicle be towed from my driveway or house?

A towing company or repossession company can indeed tow your vehicle from your private property. If you haven’t paid for it on time, the lender has the right to send someone come and take it.

Note that a repossession company or towing company cannot remove a vehicle from your garage. Only from your driveway or a public or private street. Having your car towed out of your closed garage involves breaking and entering, which is not legal.

Can an abandoned vehicle be towed?

You’ve probably seen an abandoned vehicle in a parking lot, whether its at your apartment or a store. The signs are usually there - covered in snow or with deflated tires, no one has started or moved the vehicle for days if not months.

This is especially true if your vehicle’s registration has expired by more than a couple of months and the vehicle has not been driven. Take it from me - I was pulled over for having 2 months past expired tabs and politely scolded that the office could tow my car.

Local rules tend to govern abandoned vehicles, but generally speaking the vehicle has to be reported to a local law enforcement, who will write the vehicle a ticket and indicate that the vehicle will be towed in the near future.

If a tow company removes motor vehicles without proper written notice from authorities, they could get sued.

What if a tow truck damages my vehicle?

Whether or not you towed your car with permission, the tow truck has to take care of your car when taking it away. The hardest part here is proving that the tow truck and its driver caused damage to your vehicle. We might suggest taking pictures of the outside of your vehicle occasionally to have proof that something changed. A towed car shouldn’t get damaged in the process, but it does happen.

Is It Legal For Someone To Tow My Car Without Permission?

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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